Mondays weren’t bad because, after I was done with them, I’d drop Angela’s samples off at a lab about 15 minutes away from ours. The lab was huge and I admired the artistic renditions of different cells and organisms on the oversized walls. I usually talked to a guy named Charles, for a bit. He was short but fit and had a shaved head. He mountain-biked a lot and we talked about the vacations we wanted to take with our significant others. I’d get back into my truck, grab a slice of pizza and find my way back to my desk for an unfilled day.
I always felt good when I talked to Charles, letting myself be social felt good. It gave me confidence.
I’d get back to my desk in the cavernous room filled with 3 lab benches. We didn’t use any of them. Near the two windows, mine and Angela’s desks were the only two useful things in the room. I’d say hi to Angela, work on my computer for a bit and get up and make myself a cup of tea. I had found an old electric tea pot and had plugged it in on one of the unused benches.
Lauren had shown me where they had a water dispenser with cold and hot water down in the library for tea. I didn’t like having to go all the way down there every time I wanted a cup of tea and they ran out of the water jugs the dispenser used a lot.
On Fridays they began offering stress management classes at an off-site location about an hour away. I would carpool with Lauren and her friends.
February 12, 2016
I had a good day. I went to stress class which was kind of stressful. I have a hard time being myself with all of them, or having to feel like I have to do so much when I am with them like making sure to laugh at everything funny that is said or not look too disinterested in what is happening or they’ll think I think I am too cool for school. I don’t know. I was worried I wasn’t being nice enough to certain people then towards the end of the trip I got more relaxed and finally felt like I didn’t have to do anything for anyone else and to just kind of do things for me, and that’s when things felt better like I finally felt in control of myself a little bit. I did feel like there were times on the trip where I was ruminating about things like, oh this person likes this person more than me and just felt bad about myself. I don’t know if everyone has these kinds of feeling so strong but maybe because I would try to tell myself I was fine instead of acknowledging the bad feelings and acknowledging that it might be a pattern kind of ingrained deeper in me. But I am still young and still learning and if nothing else it was a good learning experience.
I was proud of myself for being able to tell myself that I was still learning. It was a thought that felt good. This thought may seem small, but once you tell yourself something like it, other thoughts that relate to it are allowed to flow into your mind. A whole new highway or at least a back road begins to form with positive feeling thoughts. I owe my new highway, in part, to therapy. I would tell my therapist about some of my obsessions about my interactions with other people and I’d be hard on myself. I’d go on about where I could have been more relaxed and she’d always tell me that I was learning and cue me in to the fact that I may be obsessing. That felt better than you’d think it would. Thereafter I’d remind myself I was learning, it was like I could take a breath and gain shreds confidence or empowerment! I’d remember that I could be obsessing and then once I stuck a label on my thinking pattern it helped me release it and move back into the present moment.
On car ride to stress class, Lauren, Shannon and Carrie ridiculed Mary and Michelle pretty much non-stop.
Shannon was Lauren’s best friend at work. She worked on the other side of the building near Peter and Jacob. She had her own office and Lauren liked to take me down there from time to time. She was tall and about 32. Almost every time I saw her she had her long straight hair down. She wore tall shoes and glossy clothes and was always nicely put together. She was funny but easily annoyed. Shannon had another friend in the building who I pegged as a natural born elite. Her casual outfits were put together effortlessly with a bit of class mixed with a bit of L.L. Bean outdoor sporting wear. I noticed whenever Shannon mentioned her to Lauren she would always say, you know my friend Amie, in a way where I automatically knew that Lauren wasn’t welcomed in that crowd. I found Shannon always rolling her eyes at someone when Lauren brought me down there to get candy with her.
I learned in the car ride to stress class that these two ladies, Shannon and Carrie along with Lauren, of course, all believed that Mary thought she was a gift to the world. The conversations would always make me feel anxious. I couldn’t help but compare myself to Mary. What had I done wrong back at NDX? I was the Mary there. I empathized with her. Why hadn’t people liked me? I’d ruminate.
I’d continued to obsess and try to link my behavior to Mary’s on the car rides to stress class. I worried that maybe I had demonstrated too aggressively for Zoe and Melanie that I would be dedicated to my job. Maybe I had been too presumptuous. Maybe they didn’t need me to be as big of a team player as I thought they needed me to be. Maybe they had seen me as a threat.
I guess Mary referred to herself once as an ‘alpha female.’ I had laughed contemptuously in the back of the Ford Explorer like I was supposed to, but inside me I related to her. I reasoned that that was just a way in which she tried to explain herself. I knew instinctively that Mary had felt like a victim in her relationship with Carrie. It was my pattern too. After feeling like a victim she tried to pull herself out of her slump. Tried to explain that she knew she was “bad” and she wanted to work on the relationship with Carrie. I could tell with every word that Carrie uttered in the Explorer that Mary had probably tried to form some kind of apology to Carrie and all Carrie took away from the conversation was a new way to demonize her. She had referred to herself as an alpha female. I admit, it was probably not the best way for Mary to go about repairing the situation with Carrie, but I could see her intention through the anecdote that Mary repeated for us for our laughing pleasure.
All hope was lost for Mary after that. Mary would tell Peter, the older gentleman that now worked in our lab, how she was feeling from time to time. Peter could be receptive and you could tell he had a good heart unlike some of the other people in the lab. I don’t blame Mary for thinking she had found a confidant in him. But Peter, after hearing Mary’s complaints would spill the beans a mere hour or seconds later to Lauren. This would get Peter points with Lauren and solidify his place as one of the ‘good ones.’ Then everybody in the building would know about Mary’s inner workings thanks to Lauren. It was sick!
With everything that was going on with Mary at work, I admitted to Lauren on our ride home together how I was scared that that would happen to me again. She told me not to worry that I was her friend and she loved me.
I became worried that I had exposed my fear to Lauren that I could be shunned again. I kept reminding myself that she was my friend and that I could trust her. The stress of becoming so involved with all these ladies at my new job made me anxious. It made me feel like I had to be someone I wasn’t. I knew I wouldn’t fit in with them if I was myself. I was in the painful place of feeling like the only way I could be accepted was to agree with what they said and what they believed. I felt stuck because I had already acted that way once so now I felt I was obligated to be that person.
It felt, for me, like abandoning my beliefs and feelings was a basic need for survival. It was like I had no two feet to stand on on my own. Like a tribe excluding someone and making it harder for a person to survive, my survival in the corporate world felt dictated by others with more “power.” I knew I would be an exile if I hadn’t acted the way I had with Lauren, which I felt like at that point, I couldn’t escape. The saddest part, I would come to find, was feeling like I had absolutely nothing of worth to offer on my own.